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February 6, 2006

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It's gotten to be a ritual with me: every week I catch the 358 north at Aurora & 46th, take it by Green Lake to 100th, then walk back 2 blocks to 98th where I drop off a new episode at SCAN tv. This is my 5th trip and the first dry one by daylight - the neon lights up pale against blue skies. I read but don't remember the signs - cafes, bars, restaurants, used car lots, junkyards, head stones, monuments, motels, racks, auto glass, fix-it shops, guns, bicycles, new and used computers, cigarettes, gas, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Fushen, 76 - the usual litany of businesses on a stoplight highway strip.

The only thing that keeps it from being totally depressing is I don't need any of it -for now, at least. Clear skies for the first time and the moon waits above the bus stop sign. Tahoma - The Mountain - looms large, covered with snow, it makes its own clouds. On the way up the bus was packed - only seat left was all the way in back, middle of the lastrow 5-seat bench. Man on my right missing many teeth says, Excuse me, do you have 30 cents? I don't think I do. (This is one of those zones where you get on fast and pay as you leave, so I haven't checked my change.) No, sorry, I say. He jingles some coins in his hand. Oh well.

I could've checked. Should've checked. Would've checked but my pocket had other stuff in it - keys, wallet - and to pull it all out of snug jeans while seated was too much to ask. My stop, standing at the farebox, I pull out wallet, keys, then drop a dime in, followed by six quarters to make the $1.50 peak fee, overpaying by 10¢ and I still had 25¢ left. (I'd never just thrown change into the box without counting it but people were backed up behind me.) I step off and start walking. I see my seatmate still in the back and think I am a heel for withholding that 25¢. I don't know why I feel obliged to give - but just think if everybody gave just a little of what they could spare. If the bus window were open I'd hand in the quarter, but it's closed and pulling away. At SCAN, I drop my tape the usual way, put a sticker on the case, write in the duration: 28:00. It only takes two minutes. I hand the desk clerk my tape, she retrieves my previous one. Quick check of bulletin board, I hit the door, turn left towards 99 just in time to see the southbound 358 departing and on its way. 15 - 20 minutes to wait, I decide to walk south for a bit, enjoy the day. I stop a few stops down, look at the moon, the mountain, think about them. Next bus arrives, a woman in a walker needs the lift to let her off, the bus beeps and a motorized ramp extends as she declines her traveling companion's offer to carry her. No, no, she says, I don't trust nobody..., which reminds me of my grandmother who died alone, bitter, and demented. While waiting for the ramp to deploy, the guy who'd asked for 30¢ walks by. Excuse me, I say. Did I see you on the bus before? He smiles yes. It turns out I did have an extra 25¢. I hand it to him. He says thanks.